24 November 2021- Dirk Hagener, Director Group Communication and Commercial Development explains how we use digital skills to serve our customers.
Digital skills can contribute to greater efficiency and better performance. This is exactly what many companies are looking for. However, digitalising is often difficult, also in the field of Credit Management. According to Dirk Hagener, Director Group Communication and Commercial Development at Atradius, a "growth mindset" can help break the deadlock. "Sales managers don't necessarily have to know how to program, but it's good that they know the possibilities offered by technology and can think about how these can be applied commercially."
Like so many other disciplines, credit management has become increasingly digitised in recent years. Many of the activities that the credit manager previously had to perform manually have been automated – just think of alerts when an invoice is due, or the administrative processing of receipts. In addition, the credit manager has more and more (customer) data at his disposal and therefore has more possibilities to better understand credit risk and the predictability of the payment behaviour of customers. In addition, models for predicting payment behaviour are becoming increasingly sophisticated. So companies are increasingly able to ensure they are paid correctly.
According to Hagener, the next step is to combat the fragmentation of activities."The credit manager still often has to go back and forth between different systems. Additionally, he sometimes has to re-enter information stored in another system. Imagine an invoice has not been paid. The accounting system he works with will probably report this to him. But the credit insurer will not know until the credit manager decides to pass on this information. In the case of Atradius, the credit manager can go to our Atradius Atrium portal to make a declaration - outside of his own accounting system, in another online environment."
"The same applies if a large order has been placed by a good customer. This order is so important that the sales manager has to knock on the credit manager's door, to ask if that customer's credit limit can be increased. The credit limit is added manually in the accounting system, and is therefore not automatically updated. It is very likely that the credit manager will then have to go to Atradius Atrium to view the information relating to this client. And, if the credit limit can actually be increased, it must go through Atradius Atrium anyway." This type of action should be able to be carried out much more efficiently, avoiding duplication of entries, and without the credit manager having to leave his own accounting system, while largely automating his actions.
Atradius Flow makes this possible. With Atradius Flow, credit managers in Denmark and the Netherlands can work in their own accounting environment, which they are used to, where all processes related to their credit insurance policy are integrated and automated with data that is always up-to-date and correct. Atradius Flow – an add-on to Microsoft Dynamics – links credit insurance policy information in Atradius Atrium to the accounting system. With Atradius Flow, cumbersome daily credit management procedures can be automated. As Atradius' buyer information is available in the company's financial system, the credit manager has an easier time understanding credit risks. It also has at his fingertips the important information needed to manage these credit risks.
What makes Atradius Flow unique compared to other add-on solutions in the field of credit management is that it is the only solution that has been developed in collaboration with a credit insurer.
Transformation often difficult
In short, the introduction of Atradius Flow contributes to greater efficiency and better performance, like so many previous steps in the digital transformation of companies. This is exactly what many companies are looking for. However, these steps are not self-evident and are often made with difficulty.
There are two obstacles, Hagener says. "First of all, companies do not always know what is possible, or rather: the credit manager or the CFO who participates in the decision to introduce technological means to further automate credit management is not always aware of all the possibilities."
"The second problem is that digitalisation can also be seen as a threat. Maybe not in fast-growing companies, where any improvement in efficiency is welcome. But elsewhere, the efficiency gains resulting from digitalisation often mean that the finance department needs fewer staff, which can lead to people perceiving themselves as being less useful." However, they can make sure to increase their value to the company for which they work, by following technological developments and taking the initiative to introduce new advanced tools to improve and streamline credit management.
In this context, Hagener advocates what is also called a "growth mindset". In other words, a mindset that sees change as a challenge. This attitude goes hand in hand with creativity, flexibility, courage and ownership. Sticking to the status quo, which may be far from ideal and even lead to deterioration, does not form part of such a mindset. How a person reacts to change is of course partly determined by their personality, but a company's culture also plays a role. Hagener therefore advocates a corporate culture in which employees enjoy great trust, are not afraid to make mistakes and are encouraged to keep learning.
All this also applies to Atradius. For Atradius too, digitalisation can be seen as a threat on the one hand and as an opportunity on the other. "The threat is that digitalisation is contributing to our services gradually becoming a commodity. As more and more companies have the technology to automate things like risk assessment, it will be increasingly difficult for us to be competitive. That's why these products and services are threatened by a price war: you can only distinguish yourself by being the cheapest credit insurer. We can escape it, but we will have to continue to innovate. Instead of clinging to our past successes, we need to find innovative ways to live up to our motto: 'Managing risk, enabling trade'. This is only possible if employees have a growth mindset, and if Atradius encourages it." It's also important to give impetus to further digitalisation, even if it means sacrificing traditional revenue streams and has a cannibalising effect Hagener points out that as a company, you don't have to want to automate everything. You must maintain a dimension of quality in your service, something that can only be delivered from person to person.
One of the ways Atradius encourages its own employees to keep up with digitalisation is to offer digital skills programs through Atradius Academy. The exact content of the programs varies, and can range from in-depth technical training, to courses explaining digital tools such as Atradius Flow. After all, "a sales manager doesn't necessarily have to know how to program, but it's good that he knows the possibilities offered by technology and can think about how these can be applied in the company", Hagener concludes. A sales manager is well placed to advise clients on how to improve their credit management through digital tools. In this way, Atradius wants to be, not only an expert in the field of products, but also to be able to advise in the field of technology. The more digital skills you have, the better your service will be and the more satisfied your customers will be. You don't have to be the cheapest credit insurer, as long as you're the best.